“Why did they hope for so much when they had a 50-50 Senate? Why did they think they’d won the support “to realize [the liberal leaders’] longtime policy goals”?
—-“Politically neutral” blogger/ former law professor Ann Althouse, commenting on the Democrats’ expressions of anger, disappointment and betrayal after Sen. Joe Manchin scuttled their multi-trillion social policies spending bill.
Why indeed. There have been a couple of Ethics Alarms posts about this general topic already, but Althouse’s reaction is particularly deft, since it functions as both a “What the hell’s the matter with these people?” legitimate query and a rhetorical question in which the answer is implicit.
That answer is that the Democrats have abandoned the basic tenets of how this republic is supposed to work as well as the principles of democracy that have served it so well. Never before in our history has the attitude of a political party been that once they have been granted power they have leave to put in place whatever policies and laws their most radical and extreme members can imagine irrespective of the clear expectations and beliefs of the American public.
The closest I can recall is the immediate prelude to the Civil War on the subject of slavery, and even then, the South revolted because it anticipated that the Republican Party would behave this way. The sweeping New Deal policies were undertaken by Democratic control of Congress and the White House with overwhelming support of a frightened public in the grip of The Great Depression. Lyndon Johnson’s extensive reforms followed his landslide victory over a conservative candidate whose views has been resoundingly rejected.
The fact that the House and the Senate are almost evenly divided reflects the lack of consensus or even a clear plurality of public opinion favoring many of the measures in the now-dead “Build Back Better” bill. Democracy exists on a foundation of respect and trust: a closely divided public compels elected officials to proceed carefully and to avoid the appearance of the government running roughshod over half the nation. If a party in power believes fervently in policies so much of the public opposes, then it must lead and persuade, not mandate and decree.
This Democratic Party’s strategy, instead, has been totalitarian in both method and spirit. The pandemic response of Democrats has been constitutionally dubious restrictions on personal liberty, mobility, and autonomy. Those who oppose their policies in this and other areas have been vilified, insulted, denigrated, bullied and threatened, and from the highest levels. Instead of legitimate debate and persuasion, the party has relied on propaganda, and a complicit news media that is expected to mislead the public while enhancing an extreme partisan message. In addition, the evidence is strong that what the Democrats are attempting was explicitly rejected by a majority of the public in the last election. Had America wanted a socialist, nanny state transformation, it would have elected Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Instead, the Democratic President narrowly elected (after the part’s own constituency had rejected the extreme candidates), was old school liberal Joe Biden, who was sold as a moderate and reliably rooted in traditional politics. The Republic’s message could not have been clearer, and yet the Democratic Party has deliberately defied it, just as it undermined the results of the 2016 Presidential election for four years.
And it is worse yet. For the ongoing failures of the Biden administration together with the throbbing neon disasters of pet Democratic policies like defunding the police and decriminalization have created likely majority opposition to the party, its leadership and its ideology. There is a strong likelihood that the party is facing a near historic rejection in the 2022 mid-terms, yet its approach has become determination to force its agenda on a resistant public before power slips though its fingers.
They were not able to pull it off, and they are furious about it. A courageous couple of Democratic Senators refused to be intimidated and bullied, and did what they felt was right, not what their monolithic, ideologically rigid party demanded that they do instead. That is exactly how democracy is supposed to work.
Now, the party and its media allies appear to have adopted the tactics of Orwell’s Big Brother as their response to their failure to distort democracy. The cry is that taking power away from the very party that has abused it will mean “the death of democracy,” and during the campaigns to come, the one-day, moronic mob of drunks and fools who stormed the Capital last January will be held up as exemplifying what opposition to the Democrats’ intended dictatorship is.
Why did they think they’d won the support to realize their longtime policy goals? They didn’t. They knew they didn’t have the support. They just thought they could get away with imposing those policies anyway.
After all, it has worked for so many anti-democratic leaders elsewhere.